May 4: Response to San Remo

Honestly, do we want to enter into a collision with competitive claims, or shall we concede whatever it takes to create a peaceful living space here?

Response to San Remo...
Sir, – Susie Dym wants Jewish entitlement to an extended Land of Israel to be back-dated to San Remo (“Remember San Remo,” Letters, May 2). Honestly, do we want to enter into a collision with competitive claims of this hostile type, or shall we concede whatever it takes, reasonably, to create a decent, peaceful living space here?
As for San Remo, the League of Nations, Balfour and even older narratives, all the professional advocacy in the world will never get us where Ms. Dym is going.
Sir, – It is refreshing to read the hard facts, clearly summarized, regarding Jewish rights to the land of Israel under international law.
Where, exactly, do Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and all the supporters of a two-state solution think the land for a Palestinian state will come from? They are surprisingly reticent on this point. When I read that “most” Israelis are in favor of a two-state solution, I can only assume that those supporters are not thinking the matter through as insightfully as Ms. Dym.
...and ‘J Street’
Sir, – In Haviv Rettig Gur’s article about J Street (“J’lem sees J Street moving toward political center as group holds direct meetings with top Israeli officials,” April 30), he portrays me as a “former supporter” of J Street. This is an absolutely inaccurate characterization of my views about this organization. I am a critic of J Street, but I’ve clearly written in my blog that I praise J Street when its views are progressive and criticize it when its views aren’t. That’s certainly not the same as being a “former supporter.” I would appreciate my views being characterized accurately in the future.
RICHARD SILVERSTEIN Tikun Olam blogSeattle
Sir, – I read that a coalition of Brandeis University students, including a J Street group, are protesting Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren speaking at the commencement ceremony and receiving an honorary PhD (“Brandeis University choice of Michael Oren as commencement speaker sparks controversy,” May 2).
Although lately there have been news reports that J Street has started to take a more pro-Israel position, this incident seems to prove the opposite.
Forming an organization is everyone’s right, but it is complete hypocrisy for people to claim their organization is pro-Israel and then protest against Israel’s ambassador speaking at a university, be it Brandeis or any other one.
Conversion division
Sir, – Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon’s interview with The Jerusalem Post concerning Israel Beiteinu’s proposed conversion bill was truly ingenuous (“Ayalon to liberal US Jewry: Don’t fight conversion bill,” May 3). Not only does he deny that the bill discriminates against non-Orthodox streams and grants new powers to the Chief Rabbinate – all of which it does – he goes so far as to plead with the leaders of American Jewry not to create “a rift in the Jewish world,” as if it is not his party that is creating a rift by sponsoring such a bill.
As a former ambassador to the US and one who is intimately acquainted with American Jewry, Ayalon surely knows that their concerns are well-founded. Before his trip to America with Israel Beiteinu MK David Rotem he was well-informed of the problems with this bill. I cannot believe that he was so naïve as to think that his trip, diplomatic and welcome as it may have been, would change the minds of these leaders of the vast majority of American Jewry.
As one who has been involved with conversion problems in Israel since the days of the ill-fated Neeman Commission, it is clear to me that this bill is an attempt on the part of Orthodox parties to accomplish what they have never been able to accomplish before: granting the rabbinate authority of conversion that they have never had, preventing the High Court from ruling in favor of non-Orthodox streams in the matter of attaining rights to citizenship under the Law of Return for those converted in Israel, and making it difficult for converts from overseas to attain citizenship here.
Now, ostensibly, the purpose of the bill is “to find a solution for 350,000 immigrants from the USSR who want to convert and were not permitted to do so.” Very little in the current bill addresses that problem, which could be solved easily by simply recognizing the legitimacy of conversion courts not under the control of the Chief Rabbinate – Orthodox and otherwise – and by allowing for civil partnerships including weddings conducted by Jewish clergy of all streams.
It is obvious that Rotem’s bill has been woven together with the desired aims of religious parties who have promised in return to support some measures Israel Beiteinu wants. Therefore, Ayalon’s call for American Jews not to fight the conversion bill should and will fall on deaf ears. If there is a rift on this issue – and considering the current situation, there is rift enough already – the fault should not be with American Jewish leaders, but with Israel Beiteinu for taking the most sensitive issues of American Jewry – conversion and the Law of Return – and attempting to institute discriminatory and harmful legislation without world Jewry’s agreement.
RABBI REUVEN HAMMER Head of the Rabbinical Court of the Masorti Movement Jerusalem
Sir, – Plan A: Only halachic (Orthodox) conversion should be recognized.
Plan B: Accept converts from all streams of Judaism.
Results of Plan A: Converts accepted as Jews by all Jews.
Results of Plan B: Some converts not recognized by many Jews.
Question: Which plan is divisive?
Cutting our losses?
Sir, – I hope there are no Israelis or Israeli business entities that hold Greek, Spanish, Portuguese, British or American sovereign debt (“Are we immune to Greek tragedy?,” April 30). Given that losses can be up to 70 percent, at least at this point, it would be better to invest in countries whose currencies are not being devalued.
DAVID W. LINCOLNEdmonton, Alberta
The real FSU achievers
Sir, – It is certainly fitting for President Shimon Peres to invite olim from the former USSR to Beit Hanassi to celebrate the start of the mass aliya from there (“20 years on, Beit Hanassi celebrates FSU immigrants’ contributions to the state,” April 28).
Peres himself was very helpful to me when I returned to Israel in 1978from the UK and continued my campaign to release Vladimir Prestin andPasha Abramovitch and their families. They and more were among theleaders of the cultural movement for aliya, and as such inspired manyto come to Israel with their fervent distribution of learning materialsand Hebrew books and setting up of cultural seminars, for which theauthorities hounded them.
However, the true achievers of this magnificent aliya are those whowill never be heralded. They are the members of professions from acrossthe board – those doctors, nurses, pharmacists, technicians and so on –who have surmounted many obstacles (including the denial of adequateconversion processes), as well as the people (some overqualified) whowork in and run the supermarkets, drive buses, check us out at carparks and guard places of leisure, usually with a smile and a kind word.
And we mustn’t forget the youngsters, who have certainly not had it easy and pay their toll in the security forces.
We should take our hats off to them for “getting on with it” – forhaving babies and picnics in the parks and absorbing themselves intothe Israeli way of life.
Tel Aviv